Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn back in 1979. In the decades since, MBSR--and mindfulness in general--have become an accepted part of mental health practice. Hundreds of hospitals and mental health centers now offer MBSR to help people with relief anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, and other conditions. (For more on MBSR, see CK's interview with Elisha Goldstein).
Trudy Goodman was there at the beginning. Now founder and executive director of InsightLA, a center for Buddhist psychology and mindfulness meditation in Los Angeles, Goodman talked about Jon Kabat-Zinn and the origins of MBSR as part of the run-up to Kabat-Zinn's appearance this Wednesday, October 6, 2010, at UCLA.
How did you first become interested in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
I got excited about MBSR when Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and I were teaching classes at a holistic center called Interface, integrating psychological work with mindfulness meditation. I was looking for new ways to bring my experience with Buddhist (mindfulness, or insight) meditation to my work in psychotherapy and as a psychological consultant to independent schools. Early on, I discovered the synergy created when both of these powerful healing modalities--mindfulness and psychology--are practiced together. When Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the MBSR program, it was a perfect fit, and it was also a way to reach people in great need of healing who would otherwise resist seeing a therapist or attending meditation classes. Buddhist centers were the only place to learn the practice of mindfulness in those days, and they were few and far between. My lifelong interest in developmental psychology, which began when I became a mom, dovetailed with behavior medicine, learning how to tailor the teachings to people at different stages in the life cycle.
How did you come to teach MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn?
I first met Jon when I was 14 years old and he was 15. Our dads were visiting immunologists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and our families became friends. We were American kids going to French high school, so we had a lot in common. It's amazing that the teaching and practice of mindfulness wound up becoming, for both of us, a lifelong passion. Jon invited me to teach MBSR at UMass Medical Center in Worcester shortly after he created what was then called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, which became MBSR.
Why does InsightLA teach MBSR in addition to Introduction to Buddhist meditation?
It's essential to offer mindfulness education in a non-sectarian, secular format. This was Jon’s genius, to extract the key element of mindfulness from the brilliant matrix of Buddhist psychology and philosophy, and create a completely new way of expressing ancient healing knowledge that is applicable to people from all walks of life and all cultures. For us at InsightLA, MBSR is a way to serve and include a far more diverse population in our community than would be possible were we only to offer Buddhist programs. Also, MBSR can be taken into many community settings; I've taught the principles of MBSR at in-service trainings in hospitals and universities and to mental health clinicians world-wide--it wouldn't be appropriate to teach Buddhist practices in professional settings, especially state or federal facilities.
How would you recommend someone new to mindfulness get started?
For the most comprehensive training, I would recommend a newcomer take an MBSR class. If they aren't ready for that level of commitment (eight weeks, including a daylong class and required homework), then a basics class, like those we offer at InsightLA, is a great way to begin. The encouragement and guidance of well-trained teachers and the group connection and support provide an excellent foundation for learning how to live a mindful life.
Find more about Trudy Goodman at InsightLA.org. To hear Jon Kabat-Zinn and Trudy Goodman recent appearance on Terrence McNally’s Free Forum show click here. To find an MBSR program near you, try this directory.
Can’t make it to UCLA on Wednesday? A few Kabat-Zinn appearances have made their way to YouTube--here’s a relatively recently one at Google. Or find some Kabat-Zinn book and CD titles here.
Will Baum, LCSW Psychotherapy | Los Angeles